The Great Tradition and Its Legacy: The Evolution of Dramatic and Musical Theater in Austria and Central Europe

The Great Tradition and Its Legacy: The Evolution of Dramatic and Musical Theater in Austria and Central Europe

The Great Tradition and Its Legacy: The Evolution of Dramatic and Musical Theater in Austria and Central Europe

The Great Tradition and Its Legacy: The Evolution of Dramatic and Musical Theater in Austria and Central Europe

Synopsis

Both dramatic and musical theater are part of the tradition that has made Austria - especially Vienna - and the old Habsburg lands synonymous with high culture in Central Europe. Many works, often controversial originally but now considered as classics, are still performed regularly in Vienna, Prague, Budapest, or Krakow. This volume not only offers an excellent overview of the theatrical history of the region, it is also an innovative, cross-disciplinary attempt to analyse the inner workings and dynamics of theater through a discussion of the interplay between society, the audience, and performing artists.

Excerpt

Both dramatic and musical theater are part of the centuries-old tradition that has made Austria—especially Vienna—and the old Habsburg lands synonymous with high culture in Central Europe. One can still readily see classical works performed today in Vienna, Prague, Budapest, or Kraków. One can also see avant-garde productions that range far and wide in experimentation and in shocking the theater-going public. In fact, as we all know, many of the works seen as classics today created great trauma in audiences upon their first presentation. This book is in part a celebration of the theatrical history of the region, but more specifically, the authors attempt to analyze the inner workings and dynamics of theater from its inception to the present, and at the same time discuss the ever important interplay between society, audience, and the creators of theatrical works. Much of the creative work done in this region, whether in music, dance, or drama, was the basis for further developments in other parts of the world, and thus is significant in general theatrical history. At the same time, much of the work was part and parcel of the social and cultural dynamics of the old monarchy and the twentieth-century Austrian republics. Although the book offers a historical panorama, it does not presume to be historically comprehensive, but rather is designed to give readers fresh insights into multiple aspects of theater in the region, and to discuss in depth the creative process and inner workings of these theatrical productions.

There are many fascinating phenomena associated with theater, as readers of this volume will soon see, but as a social historian, there is one aspect of theater that I would like to stress, which is the importance of theater in public and civil discourse. This is particularly marked in the monarchy and in Austria. In Russia, and in much of Eastern Europe, under the repressive regimes, it was the poet and writer who became the center of political discourse. There was no avenue for free public discussion, so literary journals became the arena of such discussion, both under the czars and the communists. Similarly in the old monarchy and in Austria, the rigidity of a hierarchical and authoritarian society was one of the reasons that experimentation, breaking the boundaries, and protest against authority were manifested in theatrical productions. And as the classical canon came to be . . .

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